“Despite having spent six months living in Brussels as a student, I’d never actually visited Flanders before being invited on this month’s publishers tour by the Flemish Literature Fund (FLF). On receiving the invitation, I was very glad of the chance to make up for my previous missed opportunity, and thankfully it also made a lot of sense for me to go from a publishing perspective. I have a particular fondness for the many wonderful novels by Flemish and Dutch authors already on the Pushkin Press list, including those of the acclaimed Erwin Mortier - here was a chance to delve deeper into a literary culture for which I already felt a great affinity.
So, I went, and, although it might have made for a more explosive blog post otherwise, I’m pleased to say I did not regret my decision one bit! I was one of nine publishers on the trip, from eight different countries, and the FLF gave us a very warm welcome. After a festive opening evening barbecue and garden party, we all rose from our beds slightly fuzzy-headed the next day, but any cobwebs were blown away by a bracing ‘alternative’ walking tour of Antwerp - a fascinating city, where achingly picturesque sixteenth-century cottages alternate with Brutalist Sixties architecture to charming effect. One of the world’s major international ports, it’s unsurprisingly also a very multicultural place, but I was surprised to learn that it is apparently the most ethnically diverse city in the world, so it was the perfect setting for our week of cultural exchange.
It was a wonderful week, and one that I’m sure all the publishers involved will remember for a long time. We walked, we talked, we met Flemish publishers and authors, we saw many beautiful sites, we ate, we drank… and one FLF team member even took us round to her mum’s for tea! Not only did we have a great time, I think all the publishers involved left Flanders excited by the work of one or more of the authors we were introduced to. I’m hugely grateful to the Flemish Literature Fund for their impeccable hosting, and for giving me the chance to make up for my youthful oversight and finally discover one of Europe’s hidden gems.”